On the Effects and Boundaries of Awe and Humor Appeals for Pro-Environmental Engagement

Chris Skurka, Nicholas Eng, Mary Beth Oliver


Awe, a self-transcendent emotion often triggered by vast nature panoramas, is likely to stimulate pro-environmental action. We examined whether appealing to awe could promote perceived risk of climate change, support for low-carbon policies, and intentions to perform pro-environmental behaviors. Given conversations around comedy as a strategy for communicating climate change, we also tested whether appealing to humor, another positive emotional experience, could have similar effects. In a preregistered experiment with a national sample of U.S. adults, we found that awe appeals increased all outcomes measured. The parody-based humor appeals strengthened belief in climate change and perceived risk. These findings demonstrate awe-inspiring messages can increase several pro-environmental outcomes and parody can increase belief-oriented outcomes. For outcomes where the effects of the awe appeals depended on individuals’ political affiliation, effects were strongest for Republicans.


awe, humor, emotional appeals, climate change, air pollution

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